MooreHealth Gets Grant to Combat Childhood Obesity
For the first time in American history, children are expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Obesity is to blame.
North Carolina ranks fifth in adolescent obesity and 16th in adult obesity among the 50 American states. In accordance with Be Active North Carolina's economic study, the cost of unhealthy lifestyles among adults in Moore County is nearly $127 million annually.
In Moore County, seven in 10 children are overweight or obese.
Childhood obesity is also the cause of the recent spike in type 2 diabetes among children, but obesity affects more than just the body. According to a recent study, obese individuals score similarly to cancer patients on a happiness battery.
With the rising costs of health care and lack of access to insurance for those with pre-existing conditions, something has got to give.
And it has.
The N.C. Department of Public Health recently awarded a $380,000 grant to MooreHealth Inc. to help address the problem of childhood obesity in Moore County. Moore is one of only five counties to receive the grant.
"The aim is to increase public awareness of childhood obesity while providing opportunities to adopt healthy lifestyle habits," says Roxanne Leopper of FirstHealth Community Health Services. "It will reach all aspects of the community."
The Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project rolled out 14 initiatives comprising the comprehensive project beginning in November 2008. The final phase of the grant will be completed in June. Projects include education and infrastructure development.
For example, a nutrition program and physical activity assessment will be started in five preschools and child-care facilities to teach children and instructors the importance of healthy foods and exercise.
There will also be an education program for children at risk of developing diabetes as well as children who already have diabetes.
One of the most visible components of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project has been the construction of a sidewalk from the Village Acres subdivision in Pinehurst to N.C. 211 to increase opportunities for physical activity.
According to Mark Wagner, Pinehurst's parks and recreation director, the 1,900-foot-long sidewalk is a concrete extension of the village greenway trail that begins at an existing trail head on Gun Club Drive.
"It provides opportunities for families and children to walk or bicycle to Cannon Park or Pinehurst Elementary School," Wagner says. "It enhances walk-ability, and that's something the village is always interested in."
Another component of the project involves providing an in-school obesity and disease prevention program for K-8 physical education teachers to use in their classes.
"We are thrilled to be a part of this collaborative effort," says Beverlee Beale, the system's executive director for curriculum. "This grant will help us enhance our physical education program through staff development, curriculum support materials and equipment.
"Moore County Schools is committed to developing a healthy lifestyle for our students through education, appropriate physical activities and child nutrition that, hopefully, will impact them for the rest of their lives."
The Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project has strength in numbers.
The project is led by MooreHealth, a coalition of health and community groups that includes the Moore County Health Department, FirstHealth Community Health Services, Sandhills Pediatrics, Moore County Schools, Smart Start/Partners for Children and Families, the Moore County School Health Nursing Program;
Sandhills Children's Center, the Sandhills Community Care Network, FirstHealth's Diabetes Self-Management Program, Communities In Schools, the town of Aberdeen Parks and Recreation, Access Care Net-work, Sandhills Community Care Network, Pinehurst Parks and Recreation, and the Moore County Office of N.C. Coopera-tive Extension.
Each partner is assisting the demonstration project in its area of expertise in various settings that include faith communities, the at-large community, hospital worksite wellness, school settings, day care centers, physician offices and farmers' markets.
According to Leopper, the coalition is one of the reasons Moore County was awarded the grant. With just a short amount of time to complete the comprehensive program, the state needed a community that had pre-existing relationships among community groups.
"The project values its strong community relationships, and we believe these relationships will lead to effective obesity prevention programs and noticeable change in Moore County's childhood obesity rates in the long run," Leopper says.
According to Dr. Joe Boals, of Sandhills Pediatrics, childhood obesity is a major problem throughout the country and Moore County is no exception.
"Every day, we see several children who are morbidly obese and many more who are obese or at risk," he says. "This is a problem of diet, exercise and genetics. It is a life-changing, and life-threatening, condition that is quite difficult to treat.
"Hopefully, a communitywide effort such as this will make a big difference. Our success could lead to a much larger grant that could really help the children, schools and the community. We hope to help in any way possible and look forward to working with all involved."
The demonstration project will encourage all adults and children in Moore County to Eat Smart and Move More.
Anyone wanting to learn more about that program can visit www.eatsmartmovemorenc.com. To learn more regarding local initiatives, contact Roxanne Leopper of FirstHealth Community Health Services at 715-3487.
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